The Difference Between Histograms & Bar Graphs


According to "Statistics in a Nutshell" by Boslaugh and Watters, bar charts are appropriate for displaying discrete data with only a few categories. A histogram looks similar to a bar chart, but generally has many more bars, which represent ranges of a continuous variable.


  • A histogram graphs continuous data by frequencies. The data is divided into bins to make bars.

Bar Graphs

  • A bar graph displays discrete data with bars. The height represents the quantity of the data.

Similarities and Differences

  • Both histograms and bar charts have bars a varying heights. Histograms differ in look--the bars are next to each other with no gaps and the height of the bars follow a curve like a hill. The bars on bar graphs are separated and the heights of the bars can vary like jagged glass.

When to Use

  • Use a histogram for continuous data like how many males for each age group. Use a bar graph for discrete data like how many types of vehicles were made in a year.

History of Histogram

  • Karl Pearson first proposed the name histogram in his lectures published in 1895. He gave the name histogram to refer to a common form of graphical representation.

History of Bar Graphs

  • According to "History of Histograms" by Yannis Ionnidis (2003), the oldest known bar chart appeared in a book by Scottish political economist William Playfair titled "The Commercial and Political Atlas" (1786).


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